This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
As I sit at a Colorado lodge after just ending our Soul of a Pastor Retreat and preparing for three more weeks of retreats for women, leaders, and more pastors, I find myself hearing the words of the prophet Jeremiah (above) with fresh ears as we begin and end Altar retreats with the encouragement and challenge for each person to pause, look, listen, and observe their life and soul. Let me invite you into an Altar retreat moment with a few reflections and questions.
PAUSE. Like a skilled angler beside the stream who pauses to look, listen and observe before he makes his first cast, the art of pausing is critical to entering the stream with intentionality and purpose. This is not unlike our own journey in life and attending to the health of our souls. The pace of life is something we all have flagged as crazy in recent years or decades. Those who learn the art and apply the discipline of pausing find the ability and gift of being able to slow enough to read the waters of their lives and connect with God. When we slow, we find the reality of words from the Psalmist who says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10).
ARE YOU PAUSING ENOUGH TO CONNECT WITH GOD AND ASSESS YOUR LIFE AND SOUL SO THAT YOU CAN LIVE EACH DAY WITH INTENTIONALITY AND PURPOSE?
LOOK AND LISTEN. Have you ever arrived at a beautiful mountain stream (or another serene location) and paused to simply look and listen? We have a stream-side devotion on Altar Retreats that lead each person to do this–spending 5-10 minutes simply looking and listening and writing ALL they see and hear. It amazes me how long the list gets for each person (and for myself). Yet, without the pause to look and listen, I notice almost NONE of it. How sad to have creation shouting “look at me, listen to me” all around and to be oblivious. Again, the same is often true of our lives and souls. So many amazing things around us, within us, and also warning along the way that we can totally miss because we rush past them all in our hurried lives.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU PAUSE TO LOOK AND LISTEN TO YOUR LIFE AND SOUL NOTICING ALL THAT IS HAPPENING WITHIN AND WITHOUT YOURSELF?
OBSERVE. I often find myself needing and craving “rest for my soul” as Jeremiah records. Pausing, looking, and listening reveals much and when I truly observe, I find windows of hope, next steps, or clarity for the road ahead. Observing is a step beyond looking and listening, observing is taking in so that wisdom and intentionality can be applied. You cannot flourish, thrive, and take intentional steps forward without observing where you are and where you need to go.
DO YOU NEED MORE CLARITY TO KNOW WHAT YOUR INTENTIONAL NEXT STEP(S) SHOULD BE?
I love Jeremiah’s words, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” The call is to pause, look, listen and observe. These words comfort my soul, BUT comfort is not enough. They call me to action. To make a choice. To respond.
What has broken my heart many times is the last line of this verse that is often not quoted. “The people replied, ‘we will not walk in it.’” How sad that goodness awaits at the crossroads of life and sometimes, maybe often, we choose another path.
Friends, take the opportunity to stand at the crossroads and pause, look, listen, and observe with the intention to walk down the good paths before you and not have your story riddled with confession, “We would not walk (or even pause to consider) the good paths of tending to our souls and living into God’s best for us”
Altar retreats are designed to help people to pause, look, listen, and observe the water of life and create an intentional plan going forward to find rest for your soul.
Eric Camfield | July 2022